Archive for the ‘Lobbying Research’ Category

Freebie Friday!

Friday, July 16th, 2010 by Brittany

Subscribe to Washington Representatives Online or US Congress Online PRO and receive a free copy of Washington Representatives (a $249 value!). Click here or call 1-888-265-0600 to place your order. Don’t forget to use code FreeFriday when ordering!

What is Washington Representatives Online?
Washington Representatives Online is a database of over 22,000 federal lobbyists, their firms and their clients (corporate and nonprofit). Profiles contain complete contact information as well as legislative information, lobbying income and spending, complete client and employee lists, registration status and more! We even have contact information for PACs, 527 Groups, think tanks and government legislative affairs offices. 

What is US Congress Online PRO?
US Congress Online is an online database of all Members Congress and 7,000+ staffers. Profiles include complete contact information, photos, maps, biographies and more. Staffers can be further located by their legislative areas of responsibility, title and office.

Offer applies to new subscribers of our annual subscriptions. Use code FreeFriday when ordering. Don’t wait, offer expires at midnight tonight! Click here to place your order.

K Street Cafe Adds Congressional Conversation Data

Thursday, July 15th, 2010 by Vbhotla

K Street Cafe has added some interesting content to their ongoing discussion on advocacy, communications, and technology.

“The Congressional Conversation Index (CCI) is a joint effort by Fireside 21, a communications software provider to more than 100 Members of Congress, and Adfero Group, a public relations firm that runs issue advocacy and public awareness campaigns for corporations, associations and non-profits.

For the first time ever, the CCI allows the public a glimpse into the issues driving citizen engagement with Congress. Each month, the CCI measures the average number of recorded emails, letters or phone calls that participating Members of the U.S. House of Representatives receive about various issues from the constituents they represent.”

June’s CCI measures increased constituent concern on two main areas – environment/energy, and financial services. With both issues consistently in the news lately, it is small wonder that the we’re seeing increased constituent/Congressional communication relating to those things.

The CCI also has issue-specific charts, on financial services and the BP oil spill this month.


Obama caused lobbyist deregistrations! (maybe not so much)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 by Drew

The Washington Post ran a story this past Monday looking at the phenomenon of lobbyist deregistrations that occurred in the wake of Obama’s election and subsequent crackdown on lobbyists. Here’s the gist:

A report from November last year, jointly written by OMB Watch and the Center for Responsive Politics,  showed nearly 1,500 deregistrations during the second quarter 2009–a significant increase over the previous two years–which seemed to be a response to Obama’s election and passage of new lobbying restrictions.

Then, two weeks ago, OMB Watch and the Center for Responsive Politics released another report showing all those deregistrations may not have been a result of Obama’s election after all. The problem, they say, is that “deregistration” is a vague term, and measuring data on when and why lobbyists deregister is difficult, making it extremely hard to draw conclusions on why exactly a deregistration spike may have occurred.

Regardless, the Washington Post article explains that it’s hard to definitively say that lobbyists who have “deregistered” have stopped all advocacy activities. In the article, Dave Wenhold, president of the American League of Lobbyists, says, “Do I think these people went back to Arkansas and became farmers? No, they just weren’t doing it 20 percent anymore.” Wenhold is referring, of course, to the 20 percent trigger whereby a lobbyist must register if they spend more than 20 percent of their time on behalf of a client lobbying.

Why would some lobbyists stay under the 20 percent trigger? Because of Obama’s stricter lobbying rules? Who knows.

Are you in compliance with all the lobbying disclosure rules? Check out Lobbyists.info’s Lobbying Compliance Center to find out.

CRP Releases Report Exploring Congress-Lobbyist Ties

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 by Vbhotla

Since the financial reform debate kicked off in 2009, 1,447 former federal employees were hired to lobby Congress and federal agencies. Out of these, at least 73 were former members of Congress, accounting for 47 percent of overall former members who registered to lobby during this period. Their party affiliations are almost equally divided; 35 Democrats and 38 Republicans.

This is according to a report from The Center for Responsive Politics and Public Citizen covering ties between Congress and lobbyists in the financial sector. The report contains data from the past year and spans organizations in the financial services sector, including banks, investment firms, insurance companies, and associations that commissioned former federal employees to lobby in 2009-10.

The report also said 17 of these former members have at one point or the other served on House or Senate banking committees, while 42 of the lobbyists had formerly served in some capacity in the Treasury Department.

The members of Congress currently lobbying on behalf of the financial sector include Steve Bartlett, Rep. (R-Texas), 1983-1992, lobbying for Financial Services Roundtable; Birch Bayh, Sen. (D-Ind.), 1963-1981, lobbying for Beacon Capital Partners and Equity Office Properties; and Dennis Eckart, Rep. (D-Ohio), 1981-1992, lobbying for CP Development Co. Read the full list and report here.

BP Brings Out the Big Guns in DC

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 by Vbhotla

Power lobbyist Tony Podesta (Podesta Group) and legal advisor Jamie Gorelick (WilmerHale), a top Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, are part of the formidable team of Democrat lobbyists running Operation Damage Control for British Petroleum, the Washington Post reported on Monday. Facing one PR crisis after another since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP was struck by yet another gaffe this weekend after CEO Tony Hayward was photographed watching a yacht race along the British coast, displaying a remarkable tone-deafness to the political atmosphere.

BP has spent nearly $20 million on lobbying from January 2009 through March 2010, ranking as one of Washington’s top corporate lobbying clients.

Other key players who were involved in the incident have also increased their efforts to avert the disaster spilling over to them.  Jeffrey Turner (Patton Boggs) has been hired by engineering giant Halliburton, which was in charge of cementing the well just before the April 20 explosion, to handle legal and congressional inquiries.

Insiders in the teams representing the embattled companies told the  Post that the emphasis of the lobbying push right now is on giving as much information as possible to lawmakers, as opposed to affecting policy changes. According to the sources, the lobbyists’ attitude at this time is ‘deferential,’ in response to lawmakers’ impatience with the oil industry at present.

Source for lobbying information: Lobbyists.info & Senate Office of Public Records; Washington Post article is here.

Erring on the Side of Accuracy

Thursday, June 17th, 2010 by Vbhotla

I sat down for a chat with lobbying law expert Cleta Mitchell a few weeks ago. We were discussing, among other things, the upcoming 2010 Edition of the Lobbying Compliance Handbook.

One of the most interesting things Cleta mentioned was that there is too much emphasis recently on the side of disclosure simply for the sake of disclosure. “People talk about erring on the side of caution, but really, instead of erring on the side of disclosure, they should err on the side of accuracy.”

Cleta has a passion for accurate, thorough information. She’s right – it is foolish to overdisclose and illegal to underdisclose. The solution to that problem is to completely and accurately follow what the law requires – which (among other things) is: full disclosure of lobbying clients, the issues upon which you’re lobbying (be thorough!) and amount of money that you’re earning to speak on behalf of your clients.

Why not take a moment to brush up on what the law requires? The payoff is knowing that you’re completely in line with the law. There is plenty of room within this model for good-government groups and ethics watchdogs (and lobbyists themselves, of course) to suggest improvements and changes in the information that is disclosed. That’s a good thing – a citizen-governed nation requires a lot of oversight and maintenance. But don’t assume that disclosure for disclosure’s sake is necessarily a good thing.  As a lobbyist, you should already be maintaining a high regard for the facts – and a commitment to passing them along truthfully.

A Look at Tax-Payer Funded Lobbying

Thursday, June 10th, 2010 by Vbhotla

The Pacific Research Institute recently put out a white paper titled “State-Level Lobbying and Taxpayers: How Much Do We Really Know?” The report looks at lobbying by tax-payer funded or partially taxpayer-funded groups. The amount of money put into state level lobbying does not reach that of the federal lobbying community, but is still significant.

An excerpt from the 92-page paper:

“There is broad and well developed research on private-sector interest groups and their associated lobbying however there is a disconcerting lack of research on government-financed or what has been called taxpayer-funded lobbying, conducted by public-sector groups. This is a critical oversight, given the stark differences between the private and public sectors.”

Here is the link to the whole white paper, which is worth a look. (note – large PDF file)

A note on PRI’s ideological stance: The Pacific Research Institute states that its mission is “to champion freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility for all individuals by advancing free-market policy solutions.”

Yes, You Can (Register to Lobby if You’re a Nonprofit)!

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Lobbying by nonprofits and charitable organizations is kind of a touchy issue on K Street. Regardless of how noble the cause they’re lobbying for is, many government relations representatives for charities skip on registering. Part of it is just trying to escape the term “lobbyist” for the usual reasons, but more often than not, it’s because of confusion over two different sets of rules for lobbying by charities adopted by IRS and the Congress.

Here’s something charities should take comfort in: the government likes you. Both laws are not as complicated or scary as perceived, and with a little bit of due diligence, it’s entirely possible to lobby while staying legally within all the limits. But bear in mind that, if your activities and expenditures meet the thresholds, you must register under the LDA – whether you want to be a lobbyist or not.

The LDA (and as amended by HLOGA) states that in addition to reporting all lobbying expenditures on their Form 990, nonprofits may also be required to register with Congress and report their activities, but only if they meet these two thresholds:

  • You have an employee who is a “lobbyist,”* defined as someone who spends 20% or more of his/her time engaged in lobbying activities and the same employee makes one or more lobbying contact in the same quarter
  • Your total federal lobbying expenses are expected to exceed $11,500 during a quarter

501 (c) (3) public charities can also invite members of Congress and their staff or families to attend fundraising events free of charge, so long as they extend the invitation themselves (and not through corporate sponsors or non-employees), the primary purpose of the event is fundraising, and any entertainment offered to the Members or their staff is provided to all attendees equally.

As for keeping track of lobbying activities for IRS purposes (which you must do in order to file your 990), two options exist. Either an organization must submit to the “substantial part” test, where the IRS looks at activities and expenditures to determine how much time and money you’re spending on lobbying, or the organization may elect to an expenditures (501 (h) ) test.

The 501 (h) test is often the best way to go for most 501 (c) (3) charities – just file this one-page form – not just because it provides generous limits on how much they can spend on lobbying, but also because it gives very clear and helpful definitions of what legislative activities do not constitute lobbying. Note that this election is in fact a limitation on the amount of time and money that the organization can spend on lobbying – but for most nonprofits, whose primary purpose is not lobbying, this election makes sense.

Note that private foundations are prohibited from attempting to influence legislation or participating in partisan politics.

*For more on the definition of “lobbyist,” see Lobbyists.info’s free lobbying glossary.

Lobbying Factors of Influence Chart Released

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 by Brittany

Lobbyists.info is now offering a new resource in its free resources section, the Factors of Influence Chart. This new feature allows you to sort Lobbyists.info’s comprehensive database on the federal lobbying industry by nine critical areas and serves as an easy way to rank 2,800 lobbying firms by the most influential criteria in the industry: employees, clients, issue areas, income and Congressional connections.

Visit the free resources section of Lobbyists.info to search for federal lobbying firms by number of lobbyists employed, number of clients, number of legislative issues, lobbying income and number of lobbyists who previously worked on Capitol Hill. This Hill “alumni” figure is further broken down to display the number of firm employees who at one time worked for a currently serving member of Congress.

For more information and to view the Factors of Influence Chart visit http://www.lobbyists.info/Firm_Factors_Influence.aspx.

Is Lobbying a Family Business in Congress?

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 by Vbhotla

When the Jack Abramoff scandal unfolded in 2005-2006, lobbyists’ previously unknown ties within Congress became one of the hottest topics in the media and as Congress considered its historic overhaul of lobbying regulations, this issue was at the forefront.

At that time, investigations by various media outlets reported dozens of lobbyists with relatives serving in Congress, some directly lobbying committees that their relatives sat on. So it was no surprise when HLOGA didn’t mince words in laying down the law regarding family connections between lobbyists & Congress.

HLOGA prohibits spouses of Senators from lobbying any Senate office. However, spouses who were serving as registered lobbyists at least one year before their marriage to an elected spouse, or before their spouse’s most recent election, are exempt. It also places limits on other family connections; Senators’ immediate family members who are registered lobbyists are not permitted to lobby that Senate office. The Act is succinct in its requirement that lobbyists refrain from using ‘family relationships to gain special advantages over other lobbyists’ in both houses of Congress.

So while Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)’s wife Lucy Calautti, a senior adviser at Baker & Hostetler,  is registered to lobby for the association America’s Health Insurance Plans, and for Major League  Baseball, she has not and may not lobby her husband’s office, whose committee assignments include agriculture, nutrition, budget, finance, Indian affairs and joint taxation.

The easy bashing that accompanies lobbyist-Member connections is often without solid proof of wrongdoing. Let’s face it: it is unrealistic to expect that Members’ relations will all disappear from the lobbying horizon, especially since it’s not an actual violation of the law. What’s realistic and much more useful is to gain a real understanding of the comprehensive laws for lobbying, and then look at who is following the law, and who is not.